GM to Increase Chevy Bolt Production This Year

Mary Barra's fingers are crossed for a renewal of the federal tax credit for EV buyers.

A Chevrolet Bolt vehicle is displayed next to signage outside the General Motors Co. Orion Assembly Plant in Orion Township, Michigan, U.S., on Tuesday, June 13, 2017. The largest U.S. automaker will expand its fleet of autonomous Chevrolet Bolts to 180 of the electric vehicles, Chief Executive Officer Mary Barra said Tuesday. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg
Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

On increasing demand and in the spirit of renewing a “commitment to an all-electric, zero-emissions future,” General Motors is increasing production of the Chevrolet Volt EV in 2018, according to CEO Mary Barra. This is its second full year of production since it was introduced.

According to Automotive News, Barra somewhat vaguely outlined this production plan speaking to energy industry leaders on Wednesday. She did not specify exactly how many Bolts were projected to be built this year, but it will supposedly be more than the 22,398 units that were built in 2017.

The Chevy Bolt is built in GM’s Lake Orion, Michigan plant sharing an assembly line with the Chevy Sonic subcompact. Rumors have been going around for some time that the Sonic might cease production, partly due to low demand for subcompact cars, and partly because it’s being cannibalized by the Trax crossover that’s built on the same platform. Considering the Ford Fiesta is now dead in the U.S., the Sonic being next in line sounds realistic. If the Sonic were to bow out of production, it would mean the factory has more time and more resources to focus on Bolt production.

Chevy sold 23,297 Bolt EVs in the U.S. last year, 57 percent of which were sold in California. The Bolt is widely available in California which is the state with the highest rate of green car adoption. That demand could continue to grow, but could hit a wall if federal incentives dry up. As it stands right now, the $7,500 federal tax credit is expected to be phased out for GM by the end of 2018 when it hits the magic number of 200,000 electrified cars sold. In an effort to keep the Bolt (and the Volt, for that matter) affordable, Barra is calling for an expansion for the tax credit.

Increasing Bolt production is actually a bit risky for GM. Demand is good now, but GM had an inventory problem on its hands last year, specifically with the Lake Orion plant where the Bolt and Sonic are built. Granted, GM did a nice job clearing up those inventory issues partly by making the Bolt more widely available, but what happens if that tax credit isn’t renewed? Barra must be pretty confident that congress will act in GM’s favor if she’s this committed to boosting Bolt production.